Long-time P.E.I. bed and breakfast owner recalls life-long fighting ...
Peers Alliance set to host annual poetry slam and have some wacky fun ...
UPEI student to share her experiences as an out, queer woman in China
Making East Coast workplaces more inclusive for LGBTQ2+ community
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19: August 4, 2020
Of course Luke Philp was hoping for the call.
With the National Hockey League’s Phase 3 just around the corner, and the Calgary Flames opening their ‘Return to Play’ training camp on Monday, the 24-year-old Canmore native and Flames prospect had been waiting for the opportunity to join in on the action as part of the team’s reserve squad.
However, he’s not letting it deter his professional hockey dreams. After all, the former University of Alberta Golden Bear has been defying the odds his entire career.
“It was a little disappointing,” said Philp, calling from his off-season post in Kelowna, B.C., where he has been training. “Ultimately, it’s not my decision to make. It’s not something I can control right now. But I did feel like I had a good year, so I definitely can’t be disappointed about it.
“It’s not the first time I have been told I haven’t made something or haven’t been a part of something. You can’t really let it be the be-all, end-all.”
It’s this kind of positive attitude that has seen Philp transition from the Alberta Junior Hockey League to the Western Hockey League to three years of U Sports hockey — while studying business economics and business law — all the way to his first professional contract last summer with the Calgary Flames.
His path is not unlike that of Flames forward and U of A alumnus Derek Ryan, who didn’t log his first NHL game until the age of 29.
And there’s no need for Philp to get down on himself. He has only 52 American Hockey League games under his belt, logged in his first campaign with the Stockton Heat, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I kind of had to take a longer route to pro hockey and you look at someone like Derek Ryan,” Philp said. “He did as well. I can definitely look up to him and see what he’s done and what he’s been doing.
“It was a little discouraging to be told right now that you’re not going to be part of Phase 3 or 4 or whatever. You’re always told that could change though, you could still be expected to join them if something happens. But, for me, I’m not going to let it discourage me, either.”
This spring’s abrupt ending to the AHL campaign was the second time in as many years that Philp has seen a premature end to his season. Ten minutes into the 2019 U Sports University Cup, the speedy forward suffered a high-ankle sprain, but had impressed enough to earn a two-year contract with the Flames a few days later.
That meant a good summer of regaining strength and dipping his toe into the professional game.
“The transition was a little rough at first,” Philp admitted. “It was obviously upgraded hockey, the American League to the U Sport level I was playing for the past three seasons. Everything wasn’t smooth off the bat. I had to fight for ice time and earn more minutes as the season went on.”
It took the five-foot-10, 180-pounder almost a dozen outings before he logged his first points, scoring two goals and an assist in his 11th AHL game against San Diego.
From there, he was off and running and finished the year with 19 goals and 12 assists in 52 games. Philp’s tallies had him tied with Heat captain Bryon Froese for the team lead.
His main focus this off-season is increasing his foot speed, no doubt an asset as the pace continues to amp up year after year.
“You can see it at the NHL level, you can see it at the AHL level,” said Philp, who starred for the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles and the WHL’s Kootenay Ice and Red Deer Rebels as a junior player. “The game is trending to be faster and faster. When you compare it to U Sports, it was definitely an adjustment.
“But I think I like to play that style of game and it’s going to be up my alley moving forward.”
Along with off-season training, Philp has been chasing his degree at U of A. He enrolled in spring courses online during the main part of quarantine — which was spent at his family home in Canmore — and is currently chipping away at some summer courses.
With the NHL’s ‘Return to Play’ plan in place, the Flames’ annual summer prospects camp was cancelled. The camp would normally feature a player such as Philp.
And there has been little insight on when the AHL will start up again.
Meaning that Philp’s plans — like many other hockey players like him — are up in the air.
“It’s different,” he said. “I was told to be ready for a potential training camp that you might be joining, or you might not, but to be ready. Things always change and there have been no set dates. But understandably so. They’re doing the best they can to save the NHL season. There are lot of things they have to do first, before they start things up again.”
THE FILE ON PHILP
Age: 24 (Born Nov. 6, 1995)
Hometown: Canmore, Alta.
Height: 5-foot-10. Weight: 180 lbs.
Position: Right Winger. Shoots: Right
The skinny: Philp’s path to professional hockey hasn’t been easy — or quick. The former Canmore Eagle, Kootenay Ice/Red Deer Rebels forward took the long way, and has gained some university experience along the way. After three years with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, the Calgary Flames inked Philp to a two-year contract despite the forward suffering a high ankle sprain during the 2019 U Sports championship game. He saw his first professional season cut short, but tied Stockton Heat captain Byron Froese in team goals with 19 to finish the 2019-20 campaign with 31 points in 52 games.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020